Verbruggen criticises the media coverage of doping

Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen is at the Tour of Oman.

Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen is at the Tour of Oman. (Image credit: Stephen Farrand)

Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen criticised the media again for spending too much time writing about doping and called on journalists to question the validity of Floyd Landis' accusations.

Verbruggen made the comments to Cyclingnews in Oman on Saturday as he watched the time trial stage of the Tour of Oman. He admitted it was his first visit to a cycling race in five years, but he knew of Oman's bid to host the road world championships in 2015.

A decade ago Verbruggen, went on the offensive against the media for the detailed coverage of doping in cycling after the sport was rocked by the Festina scandal and a series of high-profile doping investigations.

Despite several other police investigations, detailed confessions from Floyd Landis and big-name doping cases since then, Verbruggen is still adamant that the media focuses far too much on doping.

"I think it's the mistake in communication that is made," Verbruggen told Cyclingnews.

"We have to accept that unfortunately in normal life you have crime, and in sport, that crime is doping. There are always people who will try to cheat."

When Cyclingnews pointed out that it is not the media that is involved in doping the riders, Verbruggen said, "It's not the media that dope (the riders) but it's the media that make the perception, they determine what the perception is."

"If you had another kind problem in the sport of one or two percent, you would talk about it that much, you wouldn't give it give it 50 percent of the space. That's thee problem. I don't blame the media. They have to do what they think they have to do. If they think they can sell you magazines best by talking about doping, then do that. It's a business decision in the end."

Verbruggen said the media should talk about doping in a different way.

"We have to change the message in cycling. We should not say 'they never learn' when we have a positive case. That's a wrong message that we all give. If we only take one or two percent that are positive, give the 98 percent a chance to say that they learned."

"Those who don't (dope), don't deserved to be treated the way they're treated now. That's the problem."

"You cannot generalise. I'll always be opposed to that. We know that one percent is sanctioned. We know we don't catch everybody, but you can't say they all doped. Those statements drives me nuts."

No comments on Armstrong. But plenty on Landis

Verbruggen refused to give his opinion on the Alberto Contador case involving Clenbuterol or the US Federal investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team.

He said he would be willing to face legal questioning in Los Angeles, perhaps as part of the Federal investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team, but dismissed the possible impact of his evidence.

The American investigation was sparked by Floyd Landis' confession of doping and detailed accusations of doping within the sport.

Verbruggen, current UCI President Pat McQuaid and the UCI recently threatened Landis with legal action if he did not retract specific accusations. Verbruggen has a long history of dispute with Landis after he pursued payment of wages following the collapse of the Mercury team in 2001.

Verbruggen refuted the recent accusation of corruption within the UCI made by Landis, vehemently claiming he has never made a cent from sport.

"I don't want to give any comments on any cases, not Contador or Armstrong. Even if I did, I wouldn't say anything. It's not up to me," he said.

"I have never, ever, been involved in the business of sport. I have never, ever, taken one cent from sport. Not as a salary, not as a commission. Nothing. I've paid for my own drinks. If my wife traveled with me, I paid it back to the UCI. I've never, ever taken anything. It's difficult to convince people because there are a lot of rumours about that."

Verbruggen claimed that he swore under oath during the trial in France into the Festina doping investigation that he had never hidden any cases of corruption.

He said he will continue the legal battle against Landis and called on the media to question Landis' accusation.

"Of course. It's clear," he said. "But why am I always put in a situation where I have to prove my innocence? Why don't you guys go to Landis and say can you prove this? It's something I fail to understand."

"I've been in front of a court in France for the Festina case, and I've asked them to put my fingers in the air (and swear under oath) that under my presidency I have never hidden away one case. I was a witness and didn't need to do it, but I said I to the judge that I wanted to do that. But that didn't impress anybody. Yet it's enough that a guy like Landis say something and 'pop' (everything happens)."

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Stephen Farrand
Head of News

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.